The latest entry in the franchise simply titled TOMB RAIDER is a reboot of the series, and also an origins tale. While the earlier games showcased Lara Croft as an experienced adventurer, action hero and archaeologist, the reboot has gone back to show just how Lara underwent the metamorphosis from innocent young woman to hardened tomb raider.

The game begins with Lara heading out on her first expedition aboard the ship Endurance in search of the long lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai, a place said to be home to the mystical 'Sun Queen' Himiko. Her travelling companions include Conrad Roth, a friend of the Croft family; computer specialist Alex; mechanic Joslyn Reyes; Sam Nishimura, Lara's friend and camerawoman; Jonah, a fisherman; Angus Grimaldi, the helmsman; and celebrity archaeologist Dr James Whitman. Choosing to trust in Lara's instincts Roth commands the ship to head into the Dragon's Triangle, an area well known for its violent storms and shipwrecks. One such storm wrecks the Endurance and the group find themselves stranded on an isolated island. Lara is captured by an island savage but escapes and tries to join up with the rest of the crew. But when Sam disappears along with a mysterious man named Mathias, Lara realizes that there is a lot more to this island than meets the eye and she must unravel the secrets of Yamatai in order to escape from the island with her friends. Along the way she is forced to kill animals ad humans alike and soon discovers the lengths she is willing to go to survive.

TOMB RAIDER is a third-person game which combines elements of action, adventure, exploration, platforming, puzzle-solving and survival. The main portion of the game involves traversing various portions of the island as you make your way towards destination markers. The terrain is diverse and includes thick jungles and forests, beaches, cliffs, caves, tunnels, abandoned forts, temples and even a vast shanty town. But Lara isn't alone on the hostile island and is almost constantly under threat from wildlife and the island's inhabitants the Solarii.


Lara's first weapon is an improvised bow with which she can stealthily hunt animals and humans alike.
The island has an assortment of creatures from the harmless bunny rabbits to the ferocious wolves and all of them can be hunted. Aiming and pulling back on the bowstring all the way charges the shot and deals greater damage. With the bow Lara can take out targets from a distance before looting their corpses for ammunition and salvage items. As the game progressed Lara acquires more weapons including a pistol, rifle and shotgun. To further assist with the stealth approach Lara can activate her 'Survival Instincts' which act in much the same way as ASSASSIN'S CREED's 'Eagle Vision', highlighting enemies and other items of interest. But of course you can always opt for the Rambo style 'run in with all guns blazing' if you would prefer.
Aside from being simply a ranged weapon the bow is also used to burn flammable objects (via flaming arrows) and can even be used to cross vast chasms by firing rope arrows at anchor points.


As the story progresses Lara acquires a range of weapons, items and tools to help her along the way. One of the first pieces of equipment she comes across is a primitive climbing axe; essentially a stick with a knife or bayonet attached to the end at a perpendicular angle. This item is used for prying open doors and chests to gain access to areas or pieces of salvage. Later in the game (after receiving a couple of upgrades) the axe can be used for ascending walls and even as a melee weapon. Another essential is the torch which is used to help navigate through dark tunnels and caves and to set fire to flammable objects to help progress through puzzles and collect precious salvage items. Along with these Lara finds four weapons; the bow, pistol, rifle and shotgun. All can be upgraded and modified through use of the games various base camps.


Throughout the various areas around the island there are base camps, which aside from helping to progress the story also act as hubs for Lara to acquire new skills and modify her weaponry. Meeting objectives, killing animals or enemies, finding secret items and collectibles, all reward Lara with experience points. Each time she levels up she receives a skill point which can be used to choose a new skill from the three different categories; Survivor, Hunter & Brawler. Skills can help Lara find extra salvage, extra ammo, secret items and tomb locations, carry extra ammo and also give her extra combat abilities.
Salvage is another important aspect of the game because it is this that allows Lara to modify weapons. Salvage is gathered by looting corpses or finding crates scattered around the environment and can be used to give weapons higher damage, faster firing rates, more accuracy and so on. You can also find weapon parts which allow you to upgrade weapons. For example enough shotgun parts will transform the standard shotgun into a pump-action shotgun and allow more modification options. Eventually you will be able to use explosive arrows, a grenade launcher attachment for the rifle and incendiary rounds for the shotgun.


One of the intrinsic ingredients in a TOMB RAIDER game is of course raiding tombs, and yes there is plenty of that here. Although this reboot focuses a lot more on story and action there are tombs to navigate and puzzles to solve but oddly they are not an essential part of the storyline. Different areas of the island hold entrances to optional tombs, successfully making your way to the end of which will reward you with maps and experience points. However somewhat disappointingly the puzzle aspect of this game has been considerably 'dumbed down' from previous games in the franchise. Rather than requiring lateral thinking  (or any real brain power at all) these puzzles are all about timing. And each tomb only houses one puzzle to solve before reaching the reward at the end. TOMB RAIDER fans who revelled in the past games' more difficult puzzles will no doubt be disappointed with these offerings.


I don't know about you but I personally never really got into online multiplayer games. When I buy this type of action / adventure game I pay for the single player campaign and so when I hear about multiplayer being attached I immediately become wary because I've seen many an occasion where single player length and quality has been sacrificed for multiplayer. Thankfully that's not the case here. The multiplayer is more of a bonus here with much more focus put on the campaign. But that's not to say that the multiplayer experience is lousy, it's just not that great. I didn't spend much time here so I'll be brief. Matches consist of two teams; the survivors and the scavengers which each have their own weapon loadouts and characters. The obligatory Death Match is included along with other objective based games. Climbable walls, zip-lines and booby-traps give it a TOMB RAIDER flavor but essentially it's a clone of UNCHARTED's multiplayer. It features a nice upgrade system but otherwise the experience is quite average. Which if you're like me and perfectly happy with the campaign, doesn't really matter at all.


If you were to simply ask me whether or not the new TOMB RAIDER is a good game I would most definitely answer yes. In fact I'd go so far as to say that it's brilliant. As a standalone game this would be impressive enough on its own merits. As a reinvention of the franchise it is amazingly conceived. It's as action-packed and cinematic as any of the UNCHARTED games, it's confronting, personal and dark.
It contains elements of games such as the aforementioned UNCHARTED and ASSASSIN'S CREED but along with the platforming and third-person shooting there is a nice amount of open world exploration as well. The combat system is quite impressive with an intuitive cover system and smart enemies who force you out of hiding places. There are quite a few quick time events particularly towards the start of the game but I didn't think they were overdone. Technically the game is great, it looks brilliant, movements and animations are nice and smooth, the camera doesn't get you stuck on cliff faces and jumping blindly into voids like some other games in the franchise. But possibly the most impressive aspect is the in depth story, characterization and reinvention of Lara Croft. This new and improved Lara is much more believable, human and vulnerable (not to mention more well proportioned physically) and the horrific and confronting situations she finds herself in and the way they transform her from innocent girl to tough survivor are translated well. Apart from the simple puzzles and a relatively short campaign (although lengthened by the decent number of collectibles) I'd say that TOMB RAIDER is one of the best games I've played in a long time and if those few minor problems were addressed I would give it 10 out of 10. Nevertheless it is a brilliantly conceived game which I happily give 9.5 out of 10.

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